Finally, we’re getting to see some of the Obama Administration’s legal rationale for targeting U.S. citizens for assassination outside the country—even if those citizens aren’t given due process to determine whether they’re guilty of a capital crime.
The New York Times reports on a 16-page “white paper” uncovered by NBC News:
Obama administration lawyers have asserted that it would be lawful to kill a United States citizen if “an informed, high-level official” of the government decided that the target was a ranking figure in Al Qaeda who posed “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and if his capture was not feasible, according to a 16-page document made public on Monday.
It adopts an elastic definition of an “imminent” threat, saying it is not necessary for a specific attack to be in process when a target is found if the target is generally engaged in terrorist activities aimed at the United States. And it asserts that courts should not play a role in reviewing or restraining such decisions.
The white paper assumes a key conclusion: It takes as a given that the target of the strike will be a “senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force of al-Qa’ida,” and it reasons from that premise that judicial process is unnecessary. This is a little bit like assuming that the defendant is guilty and then asking whether it’s useful to have a trial. Perhaps the white paper omits analysis that appears in the Justice Department’s legal memos, but again the legal memos are, inexcusably, stillsecret.
And GOP commentator Rick Wilson points out:
These little left-wing news sites would have a fat guy beating a kettle drum, flogging the bloggers all night if this was a Bush memo.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) February 5, 2013
That’s not entirely true: Commentators like Glenn Greenwald and Adam Serwer on the left have beat the kettle drum on this issue for years. But Wilson’s right: Democrats who stood for civil liberties during the Bush Years seems to be largely absent at this point.